Park Avenue Prince(10)By: Louise Bay
“So, you want these instead?” she asked even though we’d established that I did. She stepped back, her eyes flickering from my face to my feet almost as if she were trying to decide whether or not I was coming on to her. As if I wasn’t making it entirely obvious.
I knew from experience what it felt like not to be important to anyone and instead of letting that eat me alive, I used the knowledge to make myself powerful. Attention was seductive. Angie kept telling me I should insure my face, but I knew it wasn’t my looks that made me so successful in the game of seduction. Women understood I’d do whatever it took to succeed—in or out of bed—and were pulled in by the attention and focus. It was the same in business. When I wanted to make a deal, it was flattery, puffing up egos, that got them across the finish line. People liked to feel important—men, women, in business or the bedroom.
I kept my eyes on her and she fiddled with her glasses. Usually I’d elicited a smile by now, a coy tilt of the head. But Grace Astor was still unsure.
“Okay, well if I can just ask you to follow me.”
“Anywhere,” I replied.
She hesitated just long enough that I knew she’d heard me and turned on her heel and clipped back toward a desk. Maybe she was married. I glanced at her left hand. No ring. I watched her full, tight ass sway as she walked. Boyfriend?
She fumbled about in the drawers below her desk, giving me an even better view of the curve of her body and her breasts falling forward, pressing against the opening of her dress. “Here,” she said, pulling out a pad of paper. “If I can just take some details, I can arrange to have the pieces delivered. You live in the city?” she asked, shutting down just as I’d thought we’d begun to have a conversation.
At that revelation, I got an eye roll. “Of course.”
Jesus, did she know she was being rude? “Is that a problem?” I asked.
“Oh, no, sorry. I just . . . When would be a good time to arrange delivery?”
“I presume you’ll be there to oversee installation?”
Her mouth opened slightly, her generous lips almost inviting me to stroke my thumb over them. For a second I thought she’d say no; instead she smiled. Not the genuine twinkle of the smile she’d worn when I confessed I didn’t know anything about the paintings I was buying, but a fake, have-a-nice-day, pleasure-doing-business-with-you smile. “Sure. Of course, Mr. Shaw. When’s convenient?”
I never pushed for something I wanted when I knew I wasn’t going to get it. But I wanted to know more about Grace. Perhaps she could replace Nina and be my art consultant. If I asked her now, she’d say no. So I’d wait. When she came to my apartment, she’d have all my attention and focus and I’d make sure she said yes.
I stood outside the building I’d grown up in, this time at the goods delivery entrance, waiting for the van with Mr. Shaw’s paintings to arrive. I’d been determined not to just be a spoiled Park Avenue princess and spend my life going to charity luncheons, but somehow I’d still managed to find myself back here. But it was on different terms. I had my own business and I was making my own money. I checked my phone. No message. I folded my arms in front of my chest. How was it taking the driver this long to come from the gallery? I didn’t want to keep Mr. Shaw waiting.
While it wasn’t unusual for a gallery to oversee delivery, I had expected Nina to be involved with this part. If Mr. Shaw was paying her, then why did he need my help? I shouldn’t complain. He’d been a good customer. Steve’s exhibition had done well, but because he was just starting out (and because I’d been sleeping with him), I’d agreed to only a quarter of the commission I’d normally take from the sales.
We hadn’t put anything in writing, and all the money had been paid to me, so I could insist on taking a standard cut, but a deal was a deal. Even though I hated him, I didn’t want to lower myself to his level. I’d be careful not to be so stupid again. Steve had offered me no apology, no explanation. He hadn’t tried to patch things up, either. He just acted as if we’d never been more than friends, as if I was just the gallery owner where he’d had his first exhibition. He’d switched so easily and effortlessly I wondered if he’d ever had any real feelings for me. We’d been dating exclusively for over nine months. He’d been living in my apartment for all that time.